Canadian public employees may be banned from wearing religious clothing under a “secularism law” being proposed in Quebec.
Plans to forbid public employees from wearing religious symbols, including a Jewish kippah or a hijab, were announced by the centre-Right Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) after they swept to victory in provincial elections.
Restrictions would be placed on all religious symbols, including a kippah skull cap or a hijab, and would apply to judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and school teachers in the French-speaking province.
The policy was announced by François Legault, leader of the CAQ, which took power in Quebec on Monday after defeating the ruling Liberal Party.
Most Quebecers “would like to have a framework where people in an authority position must not wear a religious sign,” Mr Legault told reporters at his first post-election news conference on Tuesday.
If employees refuse to comply with the law, they will be forced to take an office job with a minimal public contact or quit.
On Wednesday, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, from the Liberal Party, urged Mr Legault to reconsider his proposed ban.
“I am not of the opinion that the state should tell a woman what she can or cannot wear,” he said.
He added that such personal choice and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into the constitution by his father, the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
However, Mr Legault said he plans to rely on an obscure clause to override any constitutional challenges to his planned law.
A religious neutrality law, introduced by the previous Liberal regional government and passed into law last October that banned anyone receiving or providing government services in Quebec from covering their faces, never went into effect. Courts found it discriminated against Muslim women who wear full-face veils, such as the niqab or burqa.
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An anti-racism demonstration is planned in Montreal on Sunday in opposition to the CAQ’s secularism law.
Protesters are also angry at plans to reduce immigration to Quebec next year by 20 per cent (or 10,000 fewer new arrivals than this year’s 50,000) and require new arrivals to pass tests that assess language and citizenship tests.
Mr Legault was forced to distance himself from Marine Le Pen after the French far-Right leader appeared to lend him support on Twitter. Responding to claims his government were "anti-immigrant", saying: “Welcome thousands of immigrants each year, but we will do so in a way that promotes integration.”
“We will take fewer of them,” he tweeted. "But we will take care of them.”